Letter: Rebound is encouraging in aftermath of Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Four years after the Deepwater Horizon accident, memories of that day, the tragic loss of 11 lives and the difficult time that followed remain vivid. But this year has brought new evidence of the resilience demonstrated by the Gulf Coast and its people.

Consider the tourism industry. Four years ago, a national newspaper reported that Gulf Coast tourism could suffer “up to $23 billion of losses” and take years to recover. Instead, data from 2011-2013 show that many areas — including Florida, the Alabama coast and New Orleans — have experienced record-breaking tourism numbers.

A similar rebound can be seen in another of the region’s most vital industries: fishing. Preliminary data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show commercial seafood landings in the Gulf in 2011 reached their highest levels since 2002.

BP has helped support the seafood industry by paying or committing to pay $82 million for state-led seafood testing and marketing programs.

Environmental cleanup and restoration efforts continue to progress. Active cleanup operations in the Gulf ended this week, and, while this is a significant milestone, BP has not left the Gulf, and we will keep resources in place to respond quickly at the Coast Guard’s direction if potential Macondo oil is identified through the National Response Center process and requires removal.

In addition, BP is working with state and federal trustees through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process to assess and restore natural resources injured as a result of the accident. In order to mitigate any environmental impacts that may remain, we must measure them, using rigorous scientific methods — not conjecture.

And to measure them accurately, we must also know the condition the resources were in before the accident. That’s what sound science is all about.

The company has paid around $1 billion to date to support that process and has committed another $1 billion in an unprecedented early restoration agreement. While analysis and interpretation of NRDA data continue, a number of studies based on responsible science are available, and the observations are encouraging.

For example, just last week, a study published by Auburn University researchers found no evidence that the spill affected young red snapper populations on reefs off the Alabama coast.

Carrying out the necessary scientific work will take time. What’s already clear, however, is that with the help of Gulf Coast residents, businesses and the tireless efforts of thousands of others, many of the worst economic and environmental fears of four years ago have not come to pass.

John Mingé

chairman and president, BP America, Inc.